The King’s Preparation for the Cross, Part 2 (Matthew 26:30–56)

Young pastors are often advised, “preach to suffering people and you’ll never lack an audience.” Why? Because everyone is well-acquainted with the subject. We all suffer, facing times of uncertainty and vulnerability, pain and inconvenience, fear and heartbreak, mistreatment and loneliness. Indeed, each of us have endured, are enduring, and will endure hardship.

But how can we endure well? That’s the question Matthew 26:30–56 is going to help us answer. As Matthew provides readers with a front-row seat to the agony of Jesus and his anticipation of the cross, we can find guidance toward faithful endurance. If we want to be a people that bear the inevitable and inescapable hardships and uncertainties of life in a Christ-honouring way we must be a people that, recognizing our frailty and fallenness, actively draw near God’s power and promises.


I was once told, “Preach to suffering people and you’ll never lack an audience.” Why? Because everyone is well-acquainted with the subject. 

Turn to Matthew 26 and, as you do, consider what’s coming. From chapter 26 we can practically see the cross on the horizon, that instrument of humiliating torture and execution to which Jesus will submit himself for our sake. It’s getting closer. And, as it does, our Lord is suffering and is preparing to suffer. 

And while, in Scripture, we’re given a front-row seat to his agony, we’re also reminded that we suffer. Not like him, but suffer all the same. We face uncertainty and vulnerability, pain and inconvenience. We cope with fear and heartbreak, mistreatment and loneliness. Each of us have endured, are enduring, and will endure suffering and hardship.

The question is, how can we endure it well? That’s the question Matthew 26 is going to help us answer. And it basically comes down to two steps. First, we recognize our weakness and, second, we utilize God’s strength. If we want to be a people that bear the inevitable and inescapable hardships of life in a God-honouring way we must be a people that, recognizing our frailty, actively draw near his power.

Step 1: Recognizing Our Weakness

An initial pass through our text will illustrate the need for step 1: recognizing our weakness. We’re more vulnerable than we may like to think. And this weakness is exemplified by the disciples in this passage.

Imperfect Conviction

In the first of three scenes, we see imperfect conviction. Remember, as we come to verse 30, Jesus has predicted his own death, been anointed for burial, and announced his betrayal. So, the group is shrouded in fear and uncertainty. And it doesn’t improve (vv. 30–32). Not only is Jesus going to be struck down, but his friends are going to scatter, their tails between their legs. They’re going to abandon him, even though he promises resurrection and regathering. Where’s the courage? Where’s the conviction?

Peter thinks he’s got it (v. 33). Finally, some pluck! But Jesus knows better (v. 34). That’s a specific prediction of determined cowardice and disloyalty. But Peter’s not convinced he’s that weak. In fact, all the disciples overestimate their conviction (v. 35).

Not long after this, of course, Peter denies and they all flee. This is imperfect conviction. And it’s not for lack of sincerity. I think Peter believed what he was saying and that the disciples were sure, in that moment, they would go down with their Captain. But, when pressure built, their conviction was imperfect and their weakness was seen.

Friends, we shouldn’t overestimate the strength our conviction. “I’ll never turn away no matter the pressure. I’ll never deny his power no matter the pain. I’ll never question his lordship no matter his demand. I’ll never doubt his goodness no matter the diagnosis. I’ll never second-guess his presence no matter the loneliness.” We must be careful. Conviction is a godly thing to be cultivated but, regardless of our sincerity, it’s still imperfect because we’re still weak.

Insufficient Stamina

In the second scene we find insufficient stamina (vv. 36–38). Jesus is burdened by what’s coming and he turns to his friends for help. “Keep watch with me” (vv. 39–41). There is a spiritual war raging at this moment that requires alertness and intercession (vv. 42–46). 

Jesus, experiencing an anguish you and I will never know, asks his friends to keep watch with him. And what does he find (vv. 40, 43, 45)? And, again, it isn’t for lack of sincerity (v. 41b). They just don’t have enough gas in the tank. They care, it’s just they have insufficient stamina. They’re human. They’re weak.

We know that we have limits. We have insufficient stamina for what God has called us to do. That’s why when suffering comes, we can stumble, tire, and our eyes grow heavy. It’s not that we don’t care and don’t want to stand faithfully with our God. Our spirit is willing. It’s just our flesh is weak. And we need to recognize that.

Inverted Trust

In the final scene of our text we find weakness show-up as inverted trust (vv. 47–50). How did we get to a place where God’s people betray and arrest God’s Christ, the one sent to deliver them? We got here because Jesus, when he came, didn’t look the way his people wanted him to look, didn’t do the things they wanted him to do, and didn’t say the things they wanted him to say. So, they plan to get rid of him. It’s an inverted trust; they’re enacting their own plans rather than God’s. 

The contrast continues between the plans of God and the plans of people (vv. 51–56). Jesus keeps pointing to Scripture, trusting God’s revealed plan. Everyone else is trusting in something other than God’s revealed plan. The mob trusts their religious leaders. The disciple trusts his sword. The crowds trust their numbers. In this time of suffering and uncertainty we see the weak human tendency to turn our trust inward. 

I wish I could say I’m not familiar with that tendency. It’s tempting, isn’t it, to trust in our plans, our savings, our skills, our family, our wits, our feelings, our heroes, rather than in he who is trustworthy?

Suffering is inevitable. But if we want to endure with faith, confidence, and strength, the first step is to recognize our weakness. We’re just not as skilled, capable, and strong as we’re tempted to think we are, as the world wants to convince us we are, and as our flesh wants us to believe we are. We’re weak and vulnerable. Like those in this passage, we can overestimate our conviction, overestimate our stamina, and then we start aiming our trust at ourselves.

Utilizing God’s Strength

As one author wrote, “No [one] is too weak for God to use, only too strong.” During times of suffering we must drop the facade of strength and admit our neediness. That’s step 1 and it paves the way for step 2: utilizing God’s strength. Particularly in hard times, we’ve got to lean on him. And passage gives us three specific ways we can do that.

Stay Near God’s Son

The first way is to stay near God’s Son (v. 31) The Bible often uses shepherd-sheep imagery to describe God and his people (see Pss 23:1; 80:1; John 10:11–15; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 2:25). Why this metaphor? Because sheep are weak, dumb, defenceless animals, whose only hope is a competent shepherd who will feed, lead, and protect (see Matt 9:36). Back in our text, Jesus predicts that he, the shepherd, will be struck, causing the scattering of his helpless, vulnerable flock (26:56b). Baa baa baa.

It’s dangerous away from the Good Shepherd. So, stay near him. When suffering comes, the temptation can be to flee, to pull back from his protection and his provision. It’s the exact opposite of what we must do. We must stay near God’s Son as he stayed near his Father (vv. 36b, 39a, 42, 44). We’re often wounded (sometimes fatally so), but we’re not animals. We’re God’s children, his flock. Run to the Shepherd, stay near God’s Son. Utilize God’s strength.

Submit to God’s Will

The second way we can do that is to submit to God’s will. While many in this passage displayed an inverted trust, Jesus didn’t. Instead, he submitted himself to the Father’s will, trusting he knows best (vv. 39b, 42b, 44). “If there’s any other way to accomplish this, let it be so, Father! Yet, I trust you. I’m submitting to you, your will, your plan.”

Jesus was enduring pain, injustice, betrayal, and humiliation (vv. 50–53). Yet, he didn’t invert his trust. He didn’t look to his own wisdom, preference, or power. Instead, he entrusted himself to the Father, submitting himself to God’s will.

This is a hard thing to do in the midst of suffering, isn’t it? When the treatments aren’t going well, when reconciliation isn’t happening, when children walk away, when cheques bounce, when failure becomes public. It’s hard in those moments to remember that God remains perfect in love, justice, wisdom, power, and grace. There’s strength in submitting to his good will even if I don’t understand it.

If you were floating in a canoe and threw a boathook to shore and started to pull, you’re not pulling the shore to yourself, you’re pulling yourself to the shore. In times of suffering, we want to pull ourselves toward God’s will, not imagine we’re bending his to ours. He’s God, we’re not. We utilize God’s strength by submitting to God’s will.

Study God’s Words

Third, we study God’s words. What God had said seemed to be enough for Jesus (vv. 31, 54, 56). In the midst of the chaos, uncertainty, and suffering, Jesus grabbed God’s words and held them as immovable and sure. “This is know for the Bible told me so.”

In times of suffering we need something sure to which we can cling. Like a climber anchoring their rope halfway up a rock face brings security in case of a slip. We need those anchors and God has given us a myriad in his word—promises to which we can grip tightly when the winds swirl and when our grip on the cliff seems to be weakening. 

And, not to state the obvious, but the promises don’t help me much if I don’t know they’ve been made. To utilize God’s strength and lean on his promises we must study God’s words. Know them, know the God that spoke them, and ask him to make his words the loudest words in our ears. 

We’re weak but God is not. We’re going to face uncertainty and suffering but we don’t have to falter if we lean on him. It’s when we pull away from God’s Son, when we fight God’s will, and when we’re unfamiliar with God’s words of promise that we look like the disciples in this passage: fearful, inattentive, and self-righteous. 

But when we utilize God’s strength—drawing near his Son, submitting to his will, and studying his words—we can endure with faith.

Trust Your God, Not Yourself!

Each of us have endured, are enduring, and will endure suffering and hardship. Our Lord did too. The Holy Spirit is shouting to us today, trust your God not yourself!You’re weak. Stop pretending. He’s strong. Lean on him. Trust your God—his protection, his plans, his promises—not yourself.

Think of a particular area in life right now where you’re facing suffering and uncertainty. Have you tried to solve it by yourself? Have you tried to cope on your own? Have you found your conviction waning, your energy dipping, and your trust inverting? It’s time to give it to the Lord. 

Draw near to God’s Son. Don’t pull away from God’s people, from the gathering of the saints, from breaking bread, from celebrating the gospel. Draw near God’s Son.

Submit to God’s will. It’s time to pray like Jesus prayed. “Your will be done, not mine. I trust you.” Remind yourself what God is like. He’s trustworthy and sovereign, powerful and good. Submit to God’s will.

And study Gods’ words. What has he promised? Find the promises, quote them, share them, discuss them, review them, celebrate them, cling to them. Study God’s words.

Brothers and sisters, suffering is inevitable. But it can be endured with faithfulness if we trust God instead of ourselves. Our Shepherd is with us. His will is sure and good. And his promises stand forever.

Notice again, as we close, verse 30. Jesus is enduring heartache, betrayal, and heading toward torture and death. The disciples are confused and scared. And what do they do? They sing a hymn—they join their voices in worship of the God who is trustworthy in spite of their circumstances.

That’s what we’re going to do now. And the song we’re going to sing is likely new to most of us. It’s a short hymn and I’ve asked the team to lead it twice. The first time through, feel free to remain seated and just listen to the words. Then, the team will invite us to stand and join them. May these words be our prayer today and in the days to come.


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Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

Josiah Boyd

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